Employee Discriminated Against and Blocked From Authorised Firearms Officer Role Due to Disability

In the case of Miss L Crawford v The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary, the Tribunal ruled that Miss Crawford had been discriminated against. This came after her Authorised Firearms Officer (AFO) application was rejected due to her autism diagnosis. As a result, a remedy hearing will take place on 18 January 2024 to determine her compensation.

Below, we discuss what happened in the case, including the employment tribunal’s judgment. Then, we explore compensation claims in general, supposing an employer has been discriminating against an employee.

Redmans Solicitors are employment law specialists and could guide you through the legal process if eligible. You can get in touch with us now to uncover the validity of your case by:

The Facts in Miss L Crawford v The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary


Before being discriminated against, Miss Crawford began working as a special constable for the Cumbria Police Force in January 2015. At the time, she was studying policing at university and had previously been diagnosed with dyslexia in December 2013 before being diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) in September 2015.

Subsequently, Miss Crawford informed her special constable supervisor of her ASD diagnosis despite this being a non-disclosable condition. The Tribunal learned she was unaware the diagnosis was non-disclosable but believed it was the right thing to do.

As such, her supervisor referred her to Occupational Health (OH) on 25 February 2016. Miss Crawford then attended a meeting with Dr McGuinness, the Force’s medical adviser, on 8 March. Following this, a report was produced, outlining that her diagnosis didn’t appear to affect her duties in the Force significantly.

The Authorised Firearms Officer Application

From 7 November, Miss Crawford was made a police constable after completing her degree and successfully applying. She coped well in this role without requiring any reasonable adjustments, and on 2 June 2019, she applied to be an AFO.

Miss Crawford successfully completed the application process, including a written firearms assessment portfolio, memory test and fire shooting test. She also passed a course on how to use a taser.

However, her application was delayed during her OH assessment, meaning she couldn’t begin the AFO course in September. This was despite Dr Ezan, a Force medical adviser, stating Miss Crawford had “no medical condition that should bar her from AFO duties”. Unfortunately, he explained her application’s outcome ultimately depended on the risk the Force was prepared to accept with knowledge of her diagnosis.

Miss Crawford’s Claims She was Discriminated Against 

On 23 January 2020, Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Webster received a report. This set out three options concerning how the Force could proceed with Miss Crawford’s application. It advised they could either accept it, reject it, or, as they decided, obtain further information.

As a result, Miss Crawford’s superiors were tasked with gathering the further information required. Ultimately, they, along with Kevin Nicholson from the College of Policing, recommended she progress to the next stage. However, DCC Webster rejected Miss Crawford’s AFO application on 1 September.

He claimed he’d spoken to Simon Chesterman, the Chief Constable of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, who endorsed his opinion. Yet, Mr Chesterman didn’t attend the proceedings, and DCC Webster didn’t meet Miss Crawford until after making his decision. What’s more, the Tribunal found he didn’t have a copy of her AFO application when making his decision.

In response, Miss Crawford raised a formal grievance. However, this was dismissed with claims that the decision of the Deputy Chief Constable couldn’t be overturned, leading to her claims. These included that she’d been discriminated against directly and treated unfavourably as a result of her disability.

The Employment Tribunal’s Judgment

First, the Tribunal confirmed Miss Crawford was disabled, as defined in the Equality Act 2010, due to her dyslexia and ASD diagnosis. Furthermore, they held DCC Webster knew about Miss Crawford’s disability at the relevant time.

Moving on, the Tribunal turned its attention to whether Miss Crawford had been discriminated against. They explained that if a hypothetical comparator had passed all the tests Miss Crawford had but didn’t have ASD, they would have been accepted onto the course. 

Furthermore, since DCC Webster knew of Miss Crawford’s diagnosis, the Tribunal determined this was why she was rejected. As such, they held she’d been discriminated against because of her ASD diagnosis. 

In their summary, the Tribunal concluded her claims of direct discrimination and unfavourable treatment due to disability were well-founded. However, they dismissed her claim of workplace harassment related to disability.

Making a Claim if You’ve Been Discriminated Against

Employees who believe they’ve been discriminated against may want to know when they could claim compensation. Under the Equality Act 2010, discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably because of a ‘protected characteristic’, which includes disability. 

In such circumstances, they could first try to resolve the matter informally or raise a formal grievance. However, if this isn’t possible or the matter remains unresolved, the employee might be able to make a claim. Specific criteria must be satisfied to make a claim, and there are instances where less favourable treatment can be justified. So, to learn more about disability discrimination claims, read our guide. 

Alternatively, if, like Miss Crawford, you have faced discrimination against your autism, contact us today. Redmans Solicitors are experts in all areas of employment law, meaning they could answer your questions and advise you on how to proceed. Additionally, we offer several funding options to ensure we can provide a service that suits your circumstances.

So, if you’ve been discriminated against and want to claim compensation, get in touch with us now by: